Canada confirms new mad cow case

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2015 - The Canadian government said a case of mad cow disease has been confirmed in a beef cow in Alberta, but said no part of the animal entered the human or animal food supply.

It's the first confirmed Canadian case of the brain-wasting disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), since 2011. In a statement, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said the case was detected through its national BSE surveillance program.

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CFIA said it is working to confirm the age of the animal, its history, and how it became infected. The agency said it will focus on “the feed supplied to this animal during the first year of its life” and will also trace out “all animals of equivalent risk.” Those animals will be destroyed and tested for BSE, CFIA said.

Scientists believe the usual avenue for transmission of the disease is in animal feed that contains the ground-up part of the brains and spinal cords of infected animals. Canada and the U.S. have banned that type of livestock feed.

CFIA said Canada remains in the World Organisation for Animal Health's "controlled BSE risk" category. Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters Friday morning he doesn't expect this to impact Canadian beef exports.

“When you test to the degree Canada does, you're going to find these things from time to time,” Ritz said. When asked if the population should be worried, Ritz answered with an emphatic “No.” 

There have been four cases of BSE detected in the U.S., the most recent in a California dairy cow in April 2012. The disease was first detected domestically in December 2003 in Washington state in an animal that was born in Canada. The CDC says that as of April 2012, there were 23 confirmed instances of the disease in North America, 19 of which were in Canada.

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The Canadian Cattlemen's Association and USDA did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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